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Weyah Fahnbulleh v. Carelink Community Support Services

December 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.


Plaintiff, a thirty-one year old Liberian woman, brings this action, pursuant to Title VII, against her former employer Carelink Community Support Services, Inc. ("CCSS"). Plaintiff asserts that she was sexually harassed by her direct supervisor, terminated in retaliation for complaining about the harassment and discriminated against based on her race and national origin. Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


A. Plaintiff's Employment and Termination

CCSS operates the Moderate Care facility ("Modcare"), which provides assistance to mentally-ill individuals who reside there. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A [Deposition of Vickie Tully] at 18--20.) Plaintiff was hired on June 30, 2003 by CCSS's Director of Human Resources Vickie Tully to be a Residential Counselor. (Id. at 15--16.) Residential Counselors such as Plaintiff are responsible for teaching independent living skills to Modcare residents. (Id. at 20.) A Residential Counselor is always on staff to assist residents, with one Residential Counselor staffed on each shift. (Id. at 58.)

Plaintiff worked the 4:00 p.m to 12:00 a.m. shift on Monday through Friday. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. D [Dep. of Weyah Fahnbulleh] at 52, 101.) Jonathan Toomey, the Program Director at Modcare, was Plaintiff's direct supervisor. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H [Dep. of Jonathan Toomey] at 15.) Toomey worked Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. (Id. at 12.) Ted Colomeda, the CCSS Regional Director and Toomey's supervisor, worked the same hours as Toomey. (Fahnbulleh Dep. at 68.)

As outlined in the CCSS Employee Handbook, Residential Counselors at CCSS may not leave the work site during their shifts without supervisory approval. (Id. at 48--49.) With a supervisor's permission, however, an employee could leave the site for a maximum of fifteen minutes to get food. (Tully Dep. at 38; Toomey Dep. at 83--84.) Plaintiff acknowledged that employees who are given permission to leave the site for food are "expect[ed] . . . to be reasonable, [to] go and grab food and come back or eat something and come back." (Fahnbulleh Dep. at 50--51.)

Sometime in 2007, Clare Bradley, a Modcare resident, complained to Toomey regarding Plaintiff's treatment of residents and Plaintiff's propensity for leaving the site unattended during her shift. (Toomey Dep. at 54--61.) Bradley also sent a letter to Colomeda, dated October 5, 2007, complaining about Plaintiff's demeanor at work. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. K [Bradley Letter to Colomeda].) Based on these complaints, Tully, Toomey, and Colomeda decided to conduct a site check. (Tully Dep. at 83.) Site checks are a standard procedure at CCSS whereby two supervisory level staff members visit a site unannounced to investigate potential problems or past complaints. (Id.; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. B [Deposition of Ted Colomeda] at 70.

On October 12, 2007, Colomeda and Toomey conducted a site check to determine whether Plaintiff was leaving the site unattended during her shift. (Colomeda 24.) They arrived at Modcare at approximately 5:30 p.m. and discovered that Plaintiff was not there. (Id. at 25; Toomey Dep. at 88--89; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. L [Toomey Evening Check Report]; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. M [Colomeda's 10/12/07 email].) They also observed that the company van was missing. (Toomey Dep. at 90; Colomeda Dep. at 25--26.) They proceeded to Plaintiff's home and saw the company van parked outside of her house.*fn1 (Toomey Dep. at 90--91; Colomeda Dep. at 25--26; Toomey Evening Check Report; Colomeda's 10/12/07 email.) After waiting several minutes, Colomeda and Toomey returned to Modcare and called Plaintiff to request that she return to the site. (Colomeda Dep. at 25--26; Toomey Dep. at 91.)

When Plaintiff returned sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 that evening, Colomeda, in accordance with CCSS procedures, asked her to prepare a written statement regarding her whereabouts for the previous hour. (Fahnbulleh Dep. at 175; Colomeda Dep. at 47, 73--74; Toomey Dep. at 93--94.) Plaintiff's statement reads:

I left the site at about 5:30 p.m. to get some food to eat. I made a quick stop at the bank ATM to get money. The food was not ready so I decided to pick up some food from my house and just in that time the supervisors called for me to come back to the site for a meeting. (Def.'s Mot. For Summ. J. Ex. N [Pl.'s Statement].) At that time, Plaintiff did not indicate that Toomey had given her permission to leave the site. (Id.; Colomeda Dep. at 47--48.) Colomeda sent Plaintiff home and told her that she would be contacted by Human Resources. (Id. at 32.)

Colomeda informed Tully of the results of the site check. (Id. at 49; Tully Dep. at 39.) Tully subsequently reviewed Plaintiff's statement and written statements prepared by Colomeda and Toomey, then discussed the matter with Colomeda and Toomey. (Id. at 52, 54.) As a result of her review, Tully terminated Plaintiff for leaving the work site without supervisory permission. (Id. at 40--41, 89.) Toomey did not have the capacity to terminate Plaintiff and he never told Colomeda or Tully that Plaintiff should be terminated. (Toomey Dep. at 96--97; Colomeda Dep. at 89.) Likewise, Colomeda had no authority to terminate Plaintiff. (Colomeda Dep. at 89.)

On October 17, 2007, Plaintiff received a termination letter, which stated that she was being terminated because "on October 12, 2007 [she] left the work site with supervisory approval." (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. E [Oct. 16, 2007 Termination Letter] (emphasis added).) The letter informed Plaintiff that she could "grieve this decision" but Plaintiff did not file a grievance. (Id.; Fahnbulleh Dep. at 180.) Tully ultimately learned that this letter contained a typographical error and directed that an accurate termination letter be sent to Plaintiff. (Tully Dep. at 63.) The second letter, dated December 19, 2007, explained that:

[T]he previous termination letter sent to you contained a mistake. The termination letter should have read "The reason for the termination is that on October 12, 2007 you left the work site without supervisory approval." ...

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